Open plan living – why we love it
In recent years there has been a huge prevailing trend for open-plan living rooms and kitchen/dining rooms.
Taking down an internal wall can help maximise the footprint
of your house and give you more flexibility on layout
. Building even a simple extension will help you realise your open-plan living ideas and might be more affordable than you think.
When done well it can transform your home, the way you live in it and is often cheaper than moving house.
The best open-plan living ideas
maximise the available space and optimise layout. They generate more light and create a feeling of spaciousness,
and can achieve:
- A bigger room
- More light
- Easy entertaining
- A multi-functional space
- A more spacious feel
- More opportunities for family interaction
“If you need some ideas you can find a world of inspiration on my Pinterest page – or check out some of my favourites.” Carl
The way we live at home has changed. Families want a space that works for different purposes and makes it easier to be together, even when they’re doing different things.
By creating one larger space you build a focal point in your home and an opportunity for more communal living. ‘The kids might still be glued to their iPads but at least you can speak to them’ is the rationale. It’s harder to be connected as a family if everyone’s in a separate room.
We also want a more relaxed style of entertaining which is why the most common project is for an open-plan kitchen-dining room
into a larger more social space. Instead of being trapped alone in the kitchen, budding masterchefs can chat with guests while cooking up a storm. If the kitchen is the heart of the home (and where the best parties end up) then we want them to be large enough to be able to gather our families and friends.
As an architect, I’m often asked about about open-plan living ideas – usually the kitchen/dining room/living room. There’s a lot of scope for getting creative and making the most of the space available. – Carl
Two rooms become one
In smaller properties, opening up two rooms creates the luxury of space and even in houses with larger footprints, the rooms can be small and feel claustrophobic. Terraced houses, especially older ones such as Victorian or Georgian, can lack natural light, leaving rooms feeling dismal even on a sunny day. By extending your home or remodelling the interior you can transform it into a lighter, more airy space and somewhere you love spending time.
Too much open-plan?
If your kitchen is also your living room, your TV room and a place where the kids play and adults socialise,
then you could be in danger of maxing out on the family time. Then there’s the lack of privacy and opportunity for personal conversations. Unless you have another sitting room, it’s worth considering whether you can successfully separate adult and kids’ activities.
Is there a different room to relax in when your partner has friends over for the evening?
Perhaps most importantly, will all the occupants of the house want to be together in the same space all the time, apart from when they’re in bed? Most of us need some time away from people
and the pandemic demonstrated the importance of a private space to retreat to.
I have had clients who want to take down every internal wall on the ground floor and I have to remind them of the day-to-day practical considerations. – Carl
Noise, mess and smells
Remember also that kitchens are functional areas, so they can be noisy and chaotic.
Especially true if you love an electric gadget or your cooking style is to use every utensil you own.
Then there’s laundry. In the UK we often have the washing machine and tumble dryer in the kitchen
and the last thing you need is for the former to go into a spin cycle in the middle of your box set. Neither do you want to have the dirty dishes catching your eye when you’re relaxing on the sofa.
And given that the main function of a kitchen is for cooking, consider that without any walls or doors then cooking smells will permeate the rest of the room and house.
You may regret the decision when it’s curry on the menu or, even worse, fish!
Heating and energy efficiency
Larger spaces can also be more difficult to heat,
which can be more costly when everyone is looking at ways to reduce home energy consumption.
This is also something to consider when thinking about how much glass you want to incorporate into your plans. A fantastic light source can be a big heat loss in the winter and crank up the temperature in the summer when you’re trying to stay cool.
Consider your heating setup at the outset, especially when you’re working out how you will use the different zones within the room.
A good thermal insulation layer and a controllable heating system will help keep fuel bills down
. Other options might be underfloor heating or even a fire in one area of the room.
The importance of balance and creating zones
Designing your new space all comes down to balance and to giving ample thought and consideration about how you will use it. Break the space into different zones
for different purposes then check how they will work together.
If you want your sitting area close to the garden for an indoor/outdoor feel and alfresco living,
but you also want the television opposite the sofa, will the two work or do you need the TV in a darker area? The decision might depend on what your priorities are.
It’s important to work these out at the beginning and discuss them with your architect, who can incorporate design, functionality and crucial features into the plans.
Use of space
Your architect should start by asking you how you will use the space, what’s important to you and what you might compromise on.
If having natural light when you cook, or a dining area that looks out on the garden is essential then specify this upfront. If you have an original feature that you simply can’t lose, then make sure this is a known deal-breaker. That said, your architect might have some clever ideas or work-arounds you haven’t thought of.
From open-plan to broken-plan
If you’re willing to flex on the extent of your open-plan vision, the trend that has become known as ‘broken-plan’ living might be for you.
This refers to the ability to open and close off spaces, which can be the best of both worlds.
It can even help you to alter or swap the functions of the rooms, perhaps seasonally.
A clever partition wall can help with zoning,
or you could incorporate glass doors or some ingenious sliding doors. Positioning furniture and using contrasting lighting, materials, flooring and decor will give each zone a different ambience.
Storage & clutter
When we picture open-plan kitchen/dining rooms we tend to imagine ourselves in one of those aspirationally stylish interiors;
a world where we glide through an exquisite kitchen past the contemporary dining table set for an elegant grown-up dinner, and on to our effortlessly chic but comfortable living area. The entire image is devoid of the jumble and chaos of real life.
Free from ‘stuff.’
Back in the real world most of us have quite a lot of stuff and we need somewhere to store it
so that it doesn’t drive us crazy. But when we remove walls there are fewer surfaces for shelves or for furniture to butt against and border on.
This is where broken-plan living can help by reinstating some of those walls or partitions for that retro sideboard to adjoin, creating a clever corner for a new cabinet or an alcove for bookshelves.
It’s all about balance and considering:
The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, does not constitute professional advice and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any company or organisation. Readers should always seek professional advice before undertaking any action based on the information contained in this article. The author makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, or suitability of the information, products, services, or related graphics contained in the article for any purpose.
- Adult and child activities
- Creating a separate/quiet area
- Light – natural and artificial
- Noise and smells